I should not write this post but then maybe I should. Many friends and acquaintances have asked me countless times about Singapore. As much as I wanted them to just google the information about this “fine” city, I don’t want to offend and sound like I don’t want to help. After all, I am not an authority to give tips and useful information about SG because even if I am barely breathing here for 3 years, every day feels like a new day as if I am a tourist. Add that to the fact that I don’t know until when my expat life here will come to an end.
When I came to this beloved merlion island, I only have the things present in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — even fewer. I know nothing about living abroad, not to mention that SG is the first country I have ever visited aside from my home country, Philippines. Even back home, I chose not to live on my own so I could save more money and be with my family. Although most people associate independence living on their own, I have my own predicament and eccentricities to deal with. I have my own definition of independence and more of it to be discussed on the bottom part of this post.
I am just your average overseas worker struggling to make the ends meet. I am also the typical Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who works everyday, gives some portion of my money to my family and live life from paycheck to paycheck. I assume many people are also like me even in the other parts of the world. Until it dawned upon me that I should do something to break this cycle or else, I’d be a beggar all my life. As the adage says, “It is not your fault if you are born poor but it is your fault if you die poor.” There’s nothing wrong about being poor but poverty really bites as many people have financial problems. Come to think of it, most people in this world have financial problems aside from the personal problems we have by default.
Homesickness happens for real and for some people, this is the core reason why they don’t want to try their fate moving/working in another country, especially to countries that are literally miles and miles away. If you think you are not yet ready to leave your home, you have to condition yourself. Otherwise, there will be lots of things holding you back and you’d never walk out that door and do your luggage. You will be sad, they will be sad and tears will be shed (that is, if you’re emotional but it’s perfectly okay). The good thing is, your tears and their tears will dry up, too. And then, you’d embark on a new journey and have new experiences that are all unknown to you. But then, here comes another problem — when you’re staying abroad for so long and you miss them so much that it hurts or to quote other people, “so much that their hearts bleed.” That’s just life and some drama eating you up. All you have to do is call your loved ones and write them missives. What if all these won’t work? Book a ticket and have your much deserved vacation to be with them.
Singapore is a great place to learn new things. Some people say that there’s nothing more to do or learn here because after a year or so, this island becomes boring. I beg to differ although I get bored at times, I do acknowledge the fact that there are lots of things to learn and do here, only if we are looking. As a worker, learning is crucial because getting a job here is very hard. The competition is tough as we cannot blame employers if they wanted someone who is a local or a permanent resident (PR), to which obviously I am not. One of the advantages you could have over the other candidates are your experiences and learning. I do believe that everyone can do a job but one who continuously learn would do the job better. You could enroll yourself to classes that would hone your skills, attend seminars and trainings, have new hobbies and activities and so on and so forth. The lists are endless and it is up to us if we wanted to learn or be mediocre at something forever.
We must not stop learning, whatever that is. If your problem is your budget, the government hosts free activities islandwide. Just keep looking. Further, if you want to learn on a broader scale and gain a new perspective, go travel. Singapore is a travel hub connected to different countries in Asia and this is your chance to travel a lot cheaper if you are here. Some lessons about traveling will lead you to a bit of independence and self-discovery (if you think you are lost for quite some time).
In my own definition, independence is living a life that you have dreamt of without having to rely on other people most of the time. I get it, we all need help but not to the point where we get too complacent and be dependent on others whenever problems get the best of us. Problems and trials will always be there, dilemmas will always be present and no matter what we do, these so-called tribulations are here to stay. It is just about us bouncing back, adjusting our sails while we are dancing in the typhoon (not just rain) and getting back on our feet. Your heart will be broken and your ego will be dumped and you’d be very disappointed that things don’t work out as planned. But this is just the start of a wonderful journey and if you continue to improve yourself for the better, you’d find your journey to be one of the bests you’ll ever have. Independence is a subjective matter and the above definition is pretty much how I define it. As an expat here, I have to admit that there are times I find it hard to live in SG (mostly due to the demands of work since I am working in IT) but most of the time, I love it to bits. That’s the reason why I am maximizing my stay here and enjoy every single day, just as I would if I am in my hometown. Now, I can say I am used to it though. Adjustment takes some time and we have to be patient.
Being jobless sucks, it is a well known fact and a general truth proven ages ago. Due to the nature of my job, each project that I am on ends at a given time to which I have to be prepared. Finding a job nowadays is such a pain in the ass and it frustrates me that even if there are lots of jobs posted everywhere, we have to realize that most of these are just plain job posts. Some of the jobs posted by recruiters and employers are created for pooling only. It only means that they are collecting jobseekers for the said position and would call you once they urgently need you to fill that position in. So, you get the picture, a job post is just a job post at that and nothing more unless it is job offered to you in black and white. You’d be lucky if they urgently need you because that only means you’re on your way to bagging that coveted job. Next step is to have your work pass (visa) approved — which is pretty hard, too.
Whether we realize it or not, there are just lots of money matters to deal with, even rich people have money issues. The only difference is that rich people learn from their money woes and remember their mistakes and lessons very well. True enough, we don’t have to be rich but we must be responsible for our own finances. To answer how much money should a tourist bring to SG, all I can say is that it depends on what your purpose is. To have a work here, I went with the safest option of getting a job through a licensed job agency by paying a placement fee. Back to finances, a general tip I could give is to just mind the basics – food, shelter and clothing. Actually, clothing is not that needed, unless you are a fashionista or you need to buy clothes to follow the company’s dress code. You could rent a bedspace and not a whole room if you want to save a lot. Although privacy is priceless, the money you pay for a solo room can be used for other necessities in life or better yet, save the money for emergencies. Salary is given only once, every end of the month. It is definitely wise to save a portion of your salary every month because nothing is sure here even if it is stated in your contract that you have to work that long for that employer. Retrenchment, restructuring, redundancy and other issues arise at any moment.
I suggest that we use our money wisely by spending money on our needs first. Treat yourself, too, so you won’t feel deprived. Being a shopaholic is perfectly fine — only if you can afford it. What I have learned a lot about money here is not about how much we earn but how we handle it. Even if you get to earn a S$10,000 (7928 USD) and above each month, you’d be a pauper if you get a lifestyle you cannot sustain. How do I know? Because I know some people who earn a lot and have lots of debts even if they have bigger salaries every year. I have been jobless for 2 to 3 months and I can say that living in SG is not an easy feat. I am tempted to go back home but luckily, I got a job. So, I am just enjoying my journey here until it lasts. :)
In reality, any city can be just as expensive if we cannot manage the lifestyle we choose. Besides, even if we own all the riches in the world and not have the responsibility and knowledge on how to manage our funds, every place would be very expensive. To cap it all off, I don’t regret anything the moment I set my foot on sunny Singapore. I am humbled enough to be living in the world’s most expensive city. :D